There are plenty of similarities but also lots of differences between the two mainstream sub-$40,000 hybrid SUVs now on sale.
Joining the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid that arrived in 2019, the Subaru Forester Hybrid that’s just gone on sale also uses an existing body kitted out with an electric motor to reduce fuel use.
While we haven’t got behind the wheel of new Forester Hybrid yet, we’ve crunched the numbers for a detailed look at how it stacks up.
Priced from $39,990 it’s almost $5000 more than the most affordable RAV4 Hybrid.
However, that RAV doesn’t get a four-wheel drive system, something that adds $3000, significantly narrowing that gap.
The Subaru needs to be serviced every 12 months or 12,500km and will cost $2433.02 for the first five years or 62,500km.
The Toyota can go slightly further between check-ups – 12 months and 15,000km – and is cheaper to service, costing $860 for the first four years or 60,000km.
While the RAV4 has wireless phone charging on some models and satellite-navigation across the range (it’s only on the more expensive Forester), it’s a rare win when comparing features.
The Forester fights back with tyre pressure monitors and a facial recognition system that can be used to set the seating position as well as monitor the driver’s alertness.
Looking at the hybrid system, the RAV4 also gets older nickel metal hydride battery tech, which is inferior to the lithium ion batteries fitted to the Subaru – and also used in all pure electric cars.
But the Toyota fights back with the size of its hybrid system.
The electric motor that powers the front wheels makes 88kW and you can add a 40kW rear electric motor as part of the AWD system. The Toyota also gets a more powerful 131kW 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. Combined output is 160kW.
In comparison the Subaru’s hybrid setup is a mild-hybrid with a modest 12kW electric motor. The petrol engine is also a 2.0-litre, so smaller than is fitted to the regular Foresters.
Subaru doesn’t quote a combined power output, but with 110kW from the petrol engine it clearly can’t match the Toyota.
Looking at the official fuel numbers, the Subaru also loses out on claimed consumption.
According to the official fuel numbers the Forester Hybrid uses 6.7 litres per 100km, which is around 10 percent better than a regular Forester.
The RAV4 uses 4.7L/100km, or 4.8L/100km for the AWD model.
Subaru claims the fuel consumption benefits double if you confine the Forester Hybrid to city driving, with fuel use at 7.5L/100km.
But it’s still thirstier than the RAV4, which uses the same amount as it does in town as for its overall number.
But Subaru fights back with off-road ability. Subaru has long worked on ensuring the Forester is a leader in its class, with confident rock-hopping ability.
Subaru claims the Hybrid is more capable than a regular Forester, mainly because the electric motor better allows torque distribution on slippery surfaces.
Its basic design better keeps components such as the front bumper out of the way and there’s a full 220mm of ground clearance, well up on the 190mm of the RAV4.
It’s that promise of better off-road performance that Subaru Australia boss Colin Christie believes will tempt adventurous buyers and those who may one day want to get the tyres dirty.
It’s a shame the Forester Hybrid doesn’t have a spare tyre, whereas the RAV4 at least gets a space saver.
So, on paper (remember, we haven’t driven the Forester Hybrid yet) the RAV4 looks the better bet for family duties and around town, where its claimed lower fuel use will be appreciated.
But for those looking to explore or head off-road, the Forester could be the better bet.
Main electric motor:
Rear electric motor:
Fuel use (average):
Fuel use (city):
Fuel use (country):
Subaru Forester Hybrid
2.0-litre 4-cyl boxer
$2433.02 (5 yrs, 62,500km)
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
2.5-litre inline 4-cyl
40kW/121Nm (AWD model)
160kW (2WD), 163kW (AWD)
4.7L/100km (2WD), 4.8L/100km (AWD)
4.8L/100km (2WD), 5.0L/100km (AWD)
4.7L/100km (2WD), 4.8L/100km (AWD)
Nickel metal hydride
10 year/unlimited km
$860 (4 yrs, 60,000km)
480kg (2WD), 1500kg (AWD)
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